How to Turn Recruiters into Cheerleaders for Your Talent Acquisition Program

You’re excited about your new talent acquisition program, but as hard as you try, you can’t get recruiters to share the love. In fact, they barely acknowledge your existence.  The thing is, you need their support or your program might die a quick death. What can you do?

Plenty, according to an industry expert who will share her hard-earned wisdom at this month’s TalentBlend conference. Designed for professionals who build, optimize and innovate talent acquisition programs, systems, tools, and practices, the event will take place April 27-28 in Washington, D.C.

Carmen Hudson, principal consultant at Recruiting Toolbox and co-founder of the tech recruiting conference Talent42, will talk about what it takes to get recruiting colleagues and hiring managers engaged with your efforts in her TalentBlend keynote titled “The Claw: How to Win Friends, Influence Recruiters and Create Recruiting Programs that Thrive.”

Here are some of the methods she will address in her keynote that will help turn recruiters into your biggest advocates:

Make their lives easier

Recruiters are super busy people, and they often operate as one-man bands or in small teams. “They’re trying to do the impossible, and they’re working with people who are overtaxed,” Hudson says.

Whatever type of program you’re delivering, it has to be completely easy to use and engage with, and it must make a recruiter’s life easier.

“You have to be the Apple product for the recruiter,” Hudson says. “You can’t deliver something that a recruiter has to spend time trying to figure out. It has to be intuitive.” Not only that, you can’t add anything to their already full plates. That may mean that you’re doing all the work.

“Early on in my career, I would be resentful about that,” Hudson says. “I’d want everyone to have the same excitement I had about whatever I was working on, whether it was a college program or a referral program. I learned over the years that it wasn’t they didn’t support what I was doing, but they couldn’t take time away from what they were doing.”

Whatever goal your program has, it must not complicate the lives of the recruiters at your company.

Communicate effectively

One of the worst things you can do is unveil your program with a “Ta-da!” without having talked to recruiters first.  You need to get their feedback and their buy-in. And not just theirs, but the feedback of every stakeholder.

“Communication is the linchpin of getting it right,” Hudson says.

As an example of stakeholder communications, she told a story from her days as a senior manager of talent acquisition at Yahoo!, where her team was in the midst of relaunching the employee referral program,  hiring more engineers, revitalizing the employer brand, and redesigning the company’s careers site. In other words, she had a lot going on and there was immense pressure to deliver.

For the new referral program, it was important to involve engineers, who were typically cynical and critical. The method she chose to communicate was an email via a back-channel distribution list usually used by developers to contact the engineers. This was taking a chance, because “to have a recruiter break into that channel was potential for derision,” she says.

Hudson spent a lot of time crafting that email, and what she told the engineers was this: She knew the referral program had been criticized in the past, that referred candidates didn’t hear from recruiters in a timely manner, and that engineers thought the program was ineffective. She promised them that this time around, if they submitted someone’s name as a referral, her team was committed to getting back to the candidate and the engineer within a specific time frame.

And if that didn’t happen, the engineers could contact her directly or even come to her office so that she would make it right.

As Hudson explains it, “That was probably the first time someone had come to them and said, ‘I’m going to be the person responsible for making sure this works well.’ ”

Rather than it being a nameless program without any clear accountability, it had her name attached to it, and she and her team had to deliver.

“It was a very small thing, just a single email,” she says. “But it turned out to be a pretty big thing.”

In other words, whether you’re communicating with engineers or recruiters, do your homework, listen to their concerns, and be sure to come through on your promises. Note: See a previous blog post for more tips on how to communicate effectively.

Focus groups are your friend

As soon as you accept your role as a talent acquisition program manager, you need to start negotiating with your stakeholders. And what you’re negotiating for is time, the time needed to launch your program successfully.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, Hudson says, you need to get recruiters involved, because “they are your secret weapon” as well as hiring managers. One way to get their feedback is to invite them to be part of a focus group.

“If you’ve got a program that’s partially designed by the group that it serves, then you’ve got something that’s going to stick around a lot longer,” she says.

Sometimes you’re initiating programs that people don’t know they need or want, Hudson says. “You’ve got to get them in a room and get them to tell you, ‘I like this,’ ‘I need this,’ ‘I would never use that.’  Understand where they’re coming from, what their pain points are. Focus groups are your friend.”

To learn how to turn recruiters into your program advocates, register to attend TalentBlend, a conference featuring industry practitioners and leaders who will transform the way you think about talent acquisition programs, operations and projects.

Learn more about Carmen Hudson on


About Bonnie Nicholls

Bonnie Nicholls is a freelance writer who supports Meritage Talent Solutions through Digital Style, a full-service creative agency. You can see a portfolio of her work on her website, Hear Ye! Writing.

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